SWA LA Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Landscape designers Alejandra Aguilar and Tracie Chazares (both based in SWA’s Los Angeles studio) co-organized an engaging series of events for staff living in a city renowned for the art, cuisine, and social justice movements that the city’s longstanding and vibrant Latinx and Chicano communities have driven over many decades.

Celebrated annually from September 15th to October 15th in the United States, Hispanic Heritage Month pays homage to the history and traditions of Hispanic and Latinx individuals and communities. The significance of September 15th as the month’s starting date lies in its being the anniversary of independence from colonialism in several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. (Mexico’s independence day follows closely on September 16th, and Chile’s on the 18th).

Starting on September 15, Alejandra and Tracie showcased foods and beverages from Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and Peru at SWA’s Friday happy hour. “We wanted to be inclusive of all Latin American countries, and not solely focus on Mexico despite our obvious geographic connection,” said Alejandra. SWA Los Angeles staff were treated to flavorful cuisines that showcased a range of flavors and ingredients from Central and South America.

The LA studio’s “Innovation in Latin American Landscapes” presentation on October 3 showcased the architectural ingenuity of Hispanic ancestral communities. “We wanted to display pre-colonial knowledge and techniques; how they were slowly superseded by others’ standards; and examine the way in which Latin countries learned to adapt and innovate their uses of outdoor spaces.  Our presentation also highlighted Latin America’s influence on LA’s landscape and use of open space.” Past SWA projects like San Jacinto Plaza and La Plaza Cultura served as case examples of Latin American influence in Los Angeles and beyond.

Tracie Chazares
Landscape Designer
Los Angeles, CA

Staff enjoying local merchant stands at Olvera Street.

LA studio group photo.

Alejandra Aguilar
Landscape Designer
Los Angeles, CA

“At its core, Hispanic Heritage Month is about recognizing the invaluable contributions Hispanic and Latinx individuals have made to literature, art, science, business, and politics, in all aspects of American society,” said Alejandra. “Living in LA allows us the opportunity to visit places that highlight the resilience and creativity of a community that has played an integral role in shaping Los Angeles’ identity.”

As the celebratory month is drawing to its close, Alejandra and Tracie also organized an Olvera Street Tour along with a visit to LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes Museum and La Plaza Paseo on October 11th. While at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes Museum, staff learned about Mexican, Mexican-American, and immigrant communities’ history in Los Angeles. They were transported to the 1920s via an immersive exhibit that recreated Los Angeles’ Calle Principal (Main Street). Next door to LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is La Plaza Paseo, an SWA project. Designer George Kutnar shared insights on the project’s inspiration and the detailing that was created to capture the essence of Mexican culture in the Paseo. The day concluded with a walk down Olvera Street, often called the “birthplace of Los Angeles.” Olvera Street is among the city’s oldest thoroughfares, and remains a culturally significant landmark replete with music, people, and the work of local merchants and artisans that continues to showcase Latin American influence in LA.